Seattle Is Turning Pockets of Unused Pavement Into Parks

A city initiative turns little-used streets and dangerous intersections into urban oases
Pavement to Parks opened the Pine Street Plaza concrete park in November

This article appears in print in the March 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

You can’t go swimming in the First Hill pool, located in a traffic island where Union, University and Boylston streets meet, but no one seems to mind. The “pool,” as it’s called by locals for its turquoise-blue painted surface, was a 2015 pilot project of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Pavement to Parks initiative, which has the goal of reclaiming unused parts of our tangled transportation grid as concrete mini parks.

Intending to compensate for the dearth of open spaces in some of Seattle’s densifying neighborhoods and to close intersections prone to pedestrian collisions, Pavement to Parks has added several parks annually in the past three years. Among them: the Pac-Man-themed Arcade Plaza on Capitol Hill; the plant-filled Growing Vine Street at Denny and Vine streets near Seattle Center; and, more recently, downtown’s vibrant yellow and blue curbside park of 300 Pine, which opened last November.

The pavement parks, which are the first step toward turning these spaces into more elaborate public venues, have been welcomed by respective neighborhoods—and none more so than the First Hill pool, which is now being landscaped and laid with decorative paving stones (among other upgrades) to become a permanent addition to our city’s topography.

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